The 2022-2023 Ligue 1 is truly a season like no other. Like all European leagues, the French top flight had to make do with allowing all of their star players go to kick about in Qatar for the World Cup right in the middle of the season, but that’s not all. Back in June 2021, the Ligue de Football Professionnel decided to switch back to an 18-team championship format from 2023-2024 onwards. This means that four clubs will be relegated this spring with no possibility of a play-off against a Ligue 2 side. The safety net has never been thinner, panic reigns in boardrooms and patience is running in increasingly short supply with struggling managers. Ergo, the sacking season is in full swing. Four coaches have been sacked after only 10 games played.
This Monday, Julien Stéphan, manager of 19th placed Strasbourg, and Lucien Favre, manager of the sorry mess that is the INEOS-owned OGC Nice, have been let go. No less than nine coaches have been dismissed during this make-or-break season. That’s already one more than the entirety of last season, and we’re not even halfway through this one, as teams gear up for gameweek 18.
Of course, the teams that are most likely to enter the market for a new coach are the ones with Ligue 2 looming over their shoulders. All four of the clubs currently in the relegation zone, Brest, Auxerre, Strasbourg and Angers have now rolled the dice. However, it must be highlighted that the first coach to get the sack this season was Lyon’s Peter Bosz. Olympique Lyonnais weren’t facing relegation, but a string of bad results, four losses and a draw was enough to convince the Rhône outfit to ring the changes. His successor, former French national team manager Laurent Blanc, has failed to impress thus far, with Lyon sitting a disappointing 8th.
Some managerial changes though have been inspired. When Reims decided to pull the plug on Oscar Garcia, many considered the decision to be harsh. The Spaniard arguably didn’t deserve to bear responsibility for the club’s sluggish start. Enter William Still. The 30-year-old Belgian Football Manager enthusiast is impressing at the helm of Reims, with tactical nous and defensive ability on show aplenty. Reims now sit 10th, just three points behind Lyon. Maybe herein lies the reason why so many Ligue 1 club owners are ready to roll the dice when there’s no longer any margin for error because replacing one man is easier than putting the collective blame on the players they selected or recruited. However, as Will Still is showing, it may still work to turn the season around.
But on the contrary, sticking to one’s gun is the way to go for some. Despite being locked in for this great French relegation battle, veteran managers like Olivier Pantaloni, Antoine Kombouaré and Pascal Gastien maintain a strong hold of their seats at Ajaccio (16th), Nantes (15th) and Clermont (9th). But for how long? The merry-go-round doesn’t stop spinning in Ligue 1, even if the new-manager bounce is never a given.
GFFN | Bastien Cheval